Posts Tagged ‘Journalism Future’

Two items of interest came my way yesterday via RSS.  First, in England, applications from students aspiring to obtain journalism degrees from the country’s universities are up 24 percent (?!?!) from last year.

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As the Press Gazette report notes, this astounding rise comes amid an industry tumble in which more than 1,000 j-jobs have been lost throughout the UK since last summer.  The piece is headlined simply: “Journalism degree applications up 24% despite job cuts.”  My suggestion for a sub-hed: “The definition of irony.”

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Second, earlier this week, the University of North Texas officially approved a reorganization of its journalism department into a full school.  Not sure if this means anything in respect to infrastructure, but it’s certainly a symbol of the university’s confidence in journalism’s future.

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These are separate events, but certainly both point to a similar professional-academic disconnect, something I’ve written about before.  What do you think?  Is it still practical to major in journalism?  Will it eventually become a more theoretical concentration, like philosophy?  What does it mean that more students than ever want to learn about a field in which less people than ever are making a living?

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A host of quotes from j-profs and j-school department heads about what they tell their students, via an About.com: Journalism article, found via a St. Louis Post Dispatch report.  (My own thoughts follow in brackets.):

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Tony Chan, journalism professor at the University of Washington at Seattle, about print journalism: “I’m telling my students to find a new profession. Print, as we know it, is dead. Kaput.  Print is ‘Dead Man Walking.'” (A bit shortsighted and way too pessimistic. Print is evolving. It will certainly never be the same and the notion of it being on ‘print’ paper may change one day but telling interested students who could be at the heart of its reinvention to steer clear before they’ve even begun seems irresponsible!)

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Steven S. Duke, managing director for training and an associate professor within Medill at Northwestern: “We’re telling students they must be prepared to practice journalism across all platforms, and not to think of themselves as TV journalists, newspaper journalists or even Web journalists. Everybody has to be able to do a bit of everything.” (Very true. And yet it also still seems worthwhile to pick one area and achieve expertise. Well-rounded is certainly in but specialization is not dead by any means. We still need experts.)

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Andy Bechtel, assistant journalism professor at UNC: “No one is sure what the future holds, but it’s apparent in the growth of readership at news sites that people still want professionally produced news.  The problem is how to make that sustainable economically- and what that means for jobs for our graduates.” (A great point and one of the scariest factors in this whole death-of-news discussion. It seems to always be talked about as something that’s out of our control. We need to figure out how to make money with our own content, and fast!)

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Ann Cooper, a former NPR foreign correspondent now teaching at Columbia: “[J-students] instinctively know something that gets forgotten in anxiety-ridden newsrooms: however the next few years shake out, journalism will survive.”  (She said it right.)

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“This is Reality, checking in”: CoPress is being refreshingly transparent about the current limits to its college media CMS hosting plans.

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“US college campus newspaper editors in Israel”: A brief snippet (third header down) about a fact-finding trip that will be incorporated into a documentary film.
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“New Year’s resolutions for graduating journos”: A few words of wisdom for j-students from MoJo DoJo.

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“Journalists Needed”: A witty, impassioned Philadelphia City Paper op-ed on why students should still seek journalism careers.  (It’s the cached version since the actual link is inexplicably discombobulated at the moment.)

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The Saturday and Monday editions of The Columbia Missourian are being dropped to help reduce the newspaper’s heavy operating budget deficit, but the newspaper will continue in print. (A brief write-up and related podcast can be found here.)

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The start of an open letter to readers from the paper’s exec ed:

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The Columbia Missourian will reduce its print publications from seven days a week to five by the end of February. The Weekend Missourian, distributed free on Saturday to about 40,000 homes, will be canceled, as will the Monday editions. What won’t change: The Missourian will continue to be a general distribution print publication for the Columbia area, with home delivery as well as in newspaper racks. Journalists will publish news seven days a week on columbiamissourian.com. Missourian personnel will serve advertisers; Missourian circulation staff will deliver your newspaper. Vox, the Missourian’s city magazine, will publish in print each Thursday, as it has for a decade. Its content can also be found at voxmagazine.com.

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One option on the table had been a shift to an online-only news operation. Is this a small victory for print? Or simply an acknowledgment it’s not quite dead yet?

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In a new MediaShift post, Center for Innovation in College Media Director Bryan Murley writes that student newspaper Web sites have made leaps and bounds from their “little more than shovelware” days that were even as recent as three years ago. 

 

It’s a thoughtful piece, reflecting on the proactive journalistic push and general happenstances that have led new media to be tackled and tamed by many student papers.  In the happenstance category, Murley notes that at times a breaking news event has triggered a reporting plan that has laid the groundwork for continued online success, such as the historic Collegiate Times Web coverage of the 2007 school shootings at Virginia Tech and The Arbiter‘s newmediatastic reporting on Boise State football’s 2006 Fiesta Bowl triumph.

 

A screenshot of today's Collegiate Times at Virginia Tech.
A screenshot of today’s Collegiate Times at Virginia Tech.

 

For me, however, the most attention-grabbing aside of the post was the plight of the others that Bryan mentioned, the college media have-nots, the analogs in a digital world, specifically the more than one-third of U.S. college newspapers still lacking a Web presence (or those whose online identities I’ve found to be nothing more than prehistoric shovelware, with a page of PDF links to archived print issues).

 

Bryan talks in the piece about the cultural and journalistic hurdles that have stood in the way of new media’s seizure of a prominent stake in the student press pantheon and we talked recently about the continued print-online divide.  However, this seems to run deeper.  I mean, my goodness, I’m left with nothing but bolding to express my shock: Thirty-six percent of student newspapers with no Web presence at all.  The heft is not an indictment against the press outlets. It’s a call to arms!

 

What can we do to make that percentage drop faster than the Dow?  I went to a small liberal arts school as an undergrad, one that is still among the have-nots.  I know the challenges- too few staffers doing too much work with no j-curriculum set aside to teach them advanced reporting let alone Web work.  There’s got to be an answer though, a Googlable smoking gun, a way to ensure student news outlets at schools like these don’t fall through the cracks of the Web or the cracks still existing in college media 2.0.

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The latest Journalism Industry Scaring Students story appeared yesterday in The Arkansas Traveler at the University of Arkansas.  As the nut graf mentioned, “They [j-students] hear about the decline of newspapers, the layoffs, the buyouts.  They hear about the drop in advertising revenue, the hiring freezes . . . [a]nd they’re worried.” 

 

Butttt, as this piece and others have noted, students are still enrolling in journalism schools and within j-departments at universities nationwide.  In fact, enrollment at most schools/depts. is growing (although many related articles admit the basic news-editorial sequence is not as robust as yesteryear). 

 

So, where’s the beef?  Seriously, with “harsh job prospects” awaiting them, according to the Traveler, why are students still enrolling en masse?  Is it their love of writing?  Their infatuation with the pop culture aura of the journalist-as-superhero?  Their loathing of other subjects like math and science?  Their idealistic belief that they will be one of the remaining few to merge the words newspaper and career together?  Or maybe their hope that new media’s worldwide (web) domination will soon lead to an explosion of related j-jobs?  

 

In the words of Joe Grimm, j-industry guru:

 

Interest remains high, journalism school enrollment stays strong, students are interested and willing-there just aren’t as many jobs.

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College news media 2.0 must always remain content-focused, according to the exec. ed. of The Detroit Free Press and a finalist for the directorship of the j-school at Texas Christian University.  

 

According to a Daily Skiff write-up on Caesar Andrew’s recent visit to TCU, the longtime journalist touted new media as the means to deliver the real goods: the content.  In Andrew’s words:

 

It’s not just an awareness of digital trends, and it’s not just the purchase of certain equipment.  It is really creating a fluency as it relates to the digital options for telling stories. . . . Ultimately, it’s not about the technology . . . that is just the means of getting someplace.  But the content, still, makes all the difference in the world.

 

It’s a nice sentiment certainly and one with which it is tough to argue.  It’s also the same thing I’ve been hearing now for years, even as the e-medium continues to be driving the messages created and debated in the college j-world.

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